"By Mammon is meant the devil who is the Lord of Money" wrote Thomas Aquinas. AVARICE is a worldly sin that creates misers, thieves and murderers. The wolf is the animal usually depicted in medieval bestiaries, coming up from hell carrying Mammon to inflame the human heart with Greed.
Like the "hungry ghosts" of the Buddhist hell, the greedy always crave more no matter how much they have. Wretched and envious, Avarice escalates to a state of infinite dissatisfaction and the sin's obsession with material wealth and "things" leads to neglect of spiritual wealth. The opposing virtue to Avarice is Sufficiency.
Whilst engagement in economic activity in the Middle Ages had been justified to the extent of sustenance, the idea of founding a whole social philosophy upon economic motives would have been considered as base and brutish as we might think a system of human organisation based upon sexual instincts, only more so. Lives given over to personal economic gain (the sin of avarice or greed to the Medieval mind), breached the social ethics of attaining perfection within the social organism’s multiplicity of relationships.
The traffickers of money, who eventually subverted the religious prohibition of usury, overcame the ethical objections to their ‘mundane principles of... practical necessity and the pursuit of one’s own advantage’* by carving out an amoral zone, an apparently neutral sphere of commercial activity. What would once have been the very embodiment of sin, the notion that personal vices might have positive ends, emerged as civil society, complete with its own supporting covenantal theology and philosophy of free will. Eventually thinkers such as Locke, Hobbes and Paine would codify the political and secular creed of liberalism that established itself as the dominant ideology of modernity.
There was an ideological continuum, staring with the money traffickers running through to modernity, which was manifested in the apparition of freedom in politics, relegation of religion to a private pursuit, reduction of art to the artist’s perspective and isolation of phenomena in the false objectivity of science. These attributes of modernity grew out of, and remain, founded upon money and the worship of Mammon. They are some of the defining characteristics of the money-based society.
The cultural and ethical divide between medieval Christendom and its subverters at the outset lingers on in modernity as a grave suspicion of tradition. If what it means to be human and to be free is the unfolding of the individual's will and self-determination, then tradition would put an end to this. Tradition offers not radical freedom, but submission to a higher principle. So tradition tends to be viewed with hostility in modernity, by both the political left and right.
Modernity’s worship of the god of this world is the re-enactment of the Fall feared by Luther. It is disorder lived as order, with what was once order now being considered as repressive on many levels. The cosmic antithesis that was once good versus evil, became good with the trappings of evil versus evil with the trappings of the good.
There could be no reversion to tradition, to a state of pre-modernity, without a universally accepted belief in higher principles. Tradition’s principle of unity in multiplicity requires a hierarchy in the social organism that is accepted as an extension of the cosmic harmony. For the individual to renounce the absoluteness of his individual rights and consent to their relativity, without feeling that this renunciation is a resignation and a compromise, the social structure would have to be based on something other than constraint.
It would require the dethronement of money, the subversion of the god of this world’s rule by those who would submit as creatures to the Creator,as relative to the Absolute. By this act of submission, all natures would gain access to a formal and qualitative equality, not horizontally amongst themselves, but vertically with regard to God.
The principle antitheses would be between the adherents of Mammon and the followers of a creator God, between secularism and religion, between liberalism and traditionalism. For there could be no reversion to tradition without belief. No belief system means no submission. No submission means no restoration of hierarchy.**
Perversely, it is Mammonism that has the supporting ‘belief’ system - Calvinist and covenantal. Disorder has taken the trappings of order to the point where the individual confronting traditionalism might say - ‘I’m defending liberty and Christianity’. ‘What is more, I’m defending liberty as a “tradition” of my country.’ Thus anti-tradition takes on the trappings of religion and freedom for which people will die.
It is a cruel and heartless deception, which means that, in the name of freedom, individuals are led to fight for their own enslavement - and, as Julius Evola remarked, it is the worst form of enslavement.
Since the modern view of life in its materialism has taken away from the single individual any possibility of bestowing on his destiny a transfiguring element and seeing in it a sign and a symbol, contemporary"slavery" should be reckoned as one of the gloomiest and most desperate kinds of all times. ***And what are these individuals most fearful of? The answer is tradition which, nominally, they are supposed to be defending. They are in reality defending the new paiduma that Luther feared; the Christian society turned Judaic recognised by Marx; the apparition of freedom experienced by atomised individuals in their increasingly commodified and clone-like status. They are defending a lie, whilst the state expunges diversity in the quest for equality of exchange and sale, quite apart from any social philosophy that might be guiding it.
*See Marx and the Judaic metaphor in Thought Pieces.
**Frithjof Schuon wrote of Luther’s basis for hierarchy in faith.
Just as the early Churches conceive a hierarchy that places monks and priests above the laity and the worldly, so also Luther—who had nothing of the revolutionary or even of the democrat in him—conceives a hierarchy that places those who truly live by faith above those who have not yet reached this point or are simply incapable of it. He intended to appeal to those who “willingly do what they know and are capable of acting with firm faith in the beneficence and favor of God” and “whom others ought to emulate”; but not to those who “make ill use of this freedom and rashly trust in it, so that they must be driven with laws, teachings, and warnings”, and other formulations of this kind. (Frithjof Schoun, 'The Question of Evangelism', taken from the collection of essays entitled Ye Shall Know the Truth: Christianity and the Perennial Philosophy, World Wisdom Books, 2005, p.28-9)
*** J. Evola, Revolt Against the Modern World, Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont, 1969, p.109